The English language is a beautiful thing because it’s anything but stagnant. Just take a look at how much it’s evolved over the years—words such as “cray” and “binge” have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary because they are used so frequently in real conversation, and technology has changed our environment so much that we’ve even invented phrases like “Netflix and chill.”
(And side note: What other language can make a sentence out of Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo ? Blows my mind.)
I’d like to believe this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Our vocabulary should be flexible, as long as we can understand one another and continue to grow.
But as our language shifts we have to be aware of what’s appropriate when. Because even though abbreviations such as NSFW and FTW are perfect alternatives in everyday emails or chatting with your team on Slack, they probably won’t be received well in an important memo to your boss—no matter how much the world has changed. Because weren’t those numbers from last month like , so ridic?
You don’t want to exaggerate on the other end either. Using big words may sound impressive to you, but it usually makes you exceedingly highfalutin to co-workers. Neither extreme is a good sign for your career (or your human interactions in general).
So there’s a healthy balance—a balance you have to continue to work at. To grow your vocabulary you have to constantly be seeking out new content—whether this means staying up to date on the latest news stories, listening to podcasts , or reading more books.
But if you want to test how well you’re doing right now, this very moment— here’s a great vocabulary quiz you can take in less than five minutes.
As an Associate Editor for The Muse, Alyse is proud to prove that yes, English majors can change the world. She calls many places home, including Illinois where she grew up and the small town of Hamilton where she attended Colgate University, but she was born to be a New Yorker. In addition to being an avid writer, Alyse loves to dance, both professionally and while waiting for the subway.More from this Author